May 17, 2013

An international team of scientists appears to have cloned human embryos for the purpose of embryonic stem cell research. Lutherans For Life (LFL) reiterates its opposition to human cloning. Cloning is not the creation of life by the hands of God, but the production of human life by the hands of man. God creates life so that we might serve Him. Cloning produces life with the intent of destroying it to serve man. As the discussion of this breakthrough ensues in the work place, schools, and churches, be watchful of the language used.

USA Today, on May 13, and a few other news outlets posted headlines such as, “Human embryonic stem cells are cloned.” Others, like Popular Science, were more precise: “Scientists Create First Cloned Human Embryo.” Before you can have human embryonic stem cells, you must have a human being. Researchers did not clone a bunch of stem cells. They cloned a human being to be destroyed for his or her stem cells.

The POPSI article quoted above begins the article with, “Scientists have made an embryonic clone of a person …” Then, in an unsophisticated scientific flip-flop, two sentences later states, “It’s unlikely that this clone could develop into a human …” That’s bad science. The clone is not developing into a human being. The clone is a developing human being. Although we oppose the method by which this human being comes into existence, he or she is also now our neighbor, someone for whom Jesus shed His blood and who we are to love as ourselves.

A quick review of the cloning process to help us watch our language: The genetic code contained in the nucleus of an ordinary body (soma) cell, such as skin, is transferred into a human egg cell which has had its genetic material removed. (This cloning process is, therefore, called “somatic cell nuclear transfer.”) Now you have an egg cell that contains the complete genetic code of the person who donated the skin cell. This cell is stimulated to begin developing just as if the egg had been fertilized. At this point you have a human being who is the genetic twin of the donor of the skin cell.

The intent for the use of this human being in this research is to allow him or her to grow to the blastocyst stage—about five-days-old—and then remove the stem cells contained in the embryo. This destroys that little boy or girl. Researchers often refer to this as “therapeutic cloning” as the goal is to use those stem cells for the purpose of treating disease.

“Reproductive cloning” is the term used where the end result is implanting the boy or girl embryo into a surrogate womb and eventually resulting in a born baby. That is not the intent of the research in question. Of course, that does not preclude other researchers from pursing this goal.

So a few points to remember in your discussions:

  • The creation of life belongs in the hands of God not man.

  • Cloning does not produce a bunch of embryonic stem cells but a human being who contains embryonic stem cells.

  • Removing those cells murders a little boy or girl.

  • A clone does not develop into a human being. It is a developing human being.

  • A human being, regardless of the means of its beginning, is our neighbor for whom Jesus died.

  • “Somatic cell nuclear transfer” is cloning.

  • The end—seeking the cure of human disease—does not justify the means—intentionally killing human beings.

  • We thank God for stem cell research that uses “adult stem cells” or “reprogramed body cells” and does not involve the destruction of human life.

To learn more, these resources are available from LFL:

Video: Stem Cell Research and Cloning 101: A Primer

Cloning: Understanding The Basics

Stem Cell Research – Understanding The Basics